Afrin (oxymetazoline) and Nasacort (triamcinolone) are both used to treat nasal congestion. However, they are classified differently and exert their effects in significantly different ways. 

Below, we discuss the differences between Nasacort AQ and Afrin nasal spray.

Nasacort (Triamcinolone) Information

Nasacort is a nasal corticosteroid that has potent anti-inflammatory effects when used intranasally. Nasal corticosteroids, such as Nasacort, are generally recommended as a first line treatment option for seasonal allergy symptoms, also known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever. Intranasal corticosteroids:

  • Reduce inflammation of the nasal passages
  • Reduce runny nose symptoms
  • Reduce itchy/watery eye symptoms
  • Last around 24 hours per dose

While effective for a wide range of nasal symptoms, one downside of using nasal corticosteroids, such as Nasacort, is that they typically do not provide immediate relief.

Peak effect of Nasacort generally takes at least a few hours after dosing to occur. In addition, most corticosteroids need at least a few days of consistent use to provide noticeable relief of nasal congestion.

If your main symptom complaint is nasal congestion, Afrin (oxymetazoline) may be a more effective choice as it works much faster. Afrin is discussed in more detail below.

Afrin (Oxymetazoline)

Afrin is very effective for providing short term relief of nasal congestion. It is not classified as a corticosteroid.

Afrin works by constricting the blood vessels in the nasal passages which promotes drainage, decreases inflammation and improves airflow. Once administered, you will notice relief as little as 30 seconds with effects lasting 4 to 12 hours. Unlike nasal steroids unfortunately, Afrin generally has no effect on itching, sneezing, or a runny nose.

While Nasacort can be used continuously for long periods of time, Afrin should not be used for more than 2 or 3 days in a row. Continuous use of Afrin can cause significant rebound congestion (rhinitis medicamentosa), which could potentially make congestion worse.


The main differentiating factors in deciding whether to use Afrin or Nasacort is how quickly you need relief and whether or not your symptoms will be long lasting.

  • For quick relief of nasal congestion, use Afrin nasal spray. However, do not use continuously for over 2 to 3 days.
  • For long term use, Nasacort nasal spray is the better option.

It is important to note that you can use both Nasacort and Afrin together, as needed. If you need immediate relief from nasal congestion, you can use Afrin and add Nasacort in the same time period. This will help transition you when you need to stop Afrin after 2 to 3 days.